Mid-February is the time to prune many plants, with one exception. Do not prune plants that flower from late winter to mid-May. This includes azalea and forsythia. Although gardenias don’t bloom until June, they fall into this category as well. Pruning these plants now removes flower blooms resulting in scarce spring floral display. Wait until after spring to prune when these plants complete flowering.
When deciding whether pruning is needed, consider the plant’s overall health and form. First remove any dead, damaged, or diseased plant parts. This can and should be done any time of the year to improve plant health. Next, look for any crossing branches that rub against each other. Branches rubbing against each other can damage each branch, so prune out crossing branches. When a plant’s interior is crowded, remove older stems to open the plant canopy and rejuvenate growth. This will get air flow moving to the interior of the canopy. After these pruning tasks are complete, no other pruning is necessary. Remember, do not remove more than 30% of the canopy.
Trees should never be topped, no matter the species. Topping removes leaves, which represent the tree’s food making potential and a large amount of the tree’s stored energy reserves. For more information on pruning, please visit the Home and Garden Information Center website at Tune in on Tuesday nights to watch “Making it Grow” at 7 p.m. on SCETV or Email Outen at
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